Just an hour away from Greenville and a world away from reality, a town bookended by lakes and mountains is home to charming inns, quaint coffee shops, and amazing adventures.
A couple weekends (and what feels like a lifetime) ago, Lee and I packed our bags and headed north in order to find some adventure, relaxation and relief from the heat. We found all three in the Lake Lure/Chimney Rock area and in case you’re looking for a wonderful weekend (or week!) trip I wanted to write an in-depth guide to the things we did and the places we stayed.
Where to Stay
The Esmerelda Inn
We were only in the area for one night but the place we stayed could not have been more perfect.
The Esmerelda Inn is a double-porched, beautiful mountain inn with amazing views of Chimney Rock and the mountain range. Perched on a hillside, it’s the kind of place that welcomes you like an old friend with front porch rocking chairs, a gourmet breakfast every morning, and deep, plush beds.
The staff was – in a word – attentive. The front desk staff took us up to our third floor room – room 9 in the 14 room inn and along the way pointed out unique amenities like a 24/7 stocked pantry on 2nd floor, a game room with leather couches and board games, and the 3rd floor counter where fresh coffee appears at 7:30 every morning.
Charming? I think yes!
And in case you think any of this was just a show for the blogger coming in for a review – I know it was not! The amenities are offered to every guest and the staff was just as accommodating to the rest of the guests as they were to us.
I don’t have another Lake Lure / Chimney Rock hotel to compare it to, but I think it’s safe to say the Esmerelda Inn is one of the premier places to stay in the area.
Where to Eat
Lunch: La Strada Restaurant
Dinner: Burnt Shirt Tasting Room and Bistro
We were in the area for lunch and dinner on Saturday then stopped into a coffee shop on Sunday.
Lunch was at the lakeside La Strada. A friendly, woodsy restaurant featuring mostly Italian food with some fan favorites like mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders for the kids.
It was too warm to sit out on the porch that overlooks Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, and the Lake Lure Inn and Spa but if you asked to be seated near the windows you’ll still get a great view of the … views.
We ordered way too much food because it all looked so good.
Sicilian Cheese Pizza – could easily feed 3-4 people. It was cheesy and thick-crusted and cooked perfectly.
Mozzarella Sticks – for an appetizer
NC Mountain Trout Sandwich – encrusted with pistachios and served with a side (I recommend the coleslaw for a bit of extra crunch)
After filling ourselves thoroughly and leaving no room for dessert, we headed out for kayaking both making mental notes to come back on our next trip to the area.
For dinner, we headed down the road from the Esmerelda to the Burnt Shirt Tasting Room and Bistro. With vineyards in Hendersonville, Burnt Shirt is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a leisurely, delicious meal while looking up at Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Falls.
Both Lee and I commented that this was one of the longest meals we’ve had in a while – not due to the inattentiveness of the staff but rather because we were enjoying ourselves so much.
We started the evening with the PEI Mussels – in-shell mussels in a lemon, garlic sauce and bread.
Then continued our two hour dinner with the Ribeye, vegetables, and potatoes for Lee and the pasta of the day for me – scallops with a mushroom risotto. Both absolutely delicious, cooked to perfection, and brought out by the most attentive and lovely staff!
We ended the evening with individual cheesecakes and coffee – the best way to end a beautiful meal. If you’re heading to the Bistro for lunch or dinner, be sure to sit out on the patio. It’s dog friendly and has the best views in the town!
If you’re in the mood for a bit of coffee in the early morning hours or to cool down from the heat of the day, Broad River Coffee Shop is going to be your place of choice to stop.
We started Sunday morning out with a warm cinnamon roll and iced vanilla lattes for a pick up before attempting hiking at Chimney Rock.
What to Do
Kayaking with Lake Lure Adventure Company
Hiking at Chimney Rock
Rent a tandem kayak, a single one, or even a pontoon boat, and head out on picturesque Lake Lure. Bring sure to bring sunscreen, water, and a waterproof bag with you to hold your belongings but otherwise enjoy a wonderful time on the water.
Lake Lure Adventure Company is a charming little outpost where you can rent all sorts of water gear and may be one of the only places to do so on the lake. We got a tandem kayak and explored the shorelines of the lake for 2 hours!
Hiking at Chimney Rock State Park
From the water to the trails, we stopped by Chimney Rock State Park to check out the famous rock and view. What I didn’t realize is that they have so many more trails then just the famed rock. You can hike to waterfalls, higher rocks with better views, and through lush forests.
Of course, if you’re looking for amazing views, Chimney Rock truly offers a spectacular one. There are two ways to get up to the rock once you park – an elevator or a series of very strenuous steps. It was well over 100 degrees when we got into the park and since we didn’t have the proper hydration it seemed foolish to attempt the stairs.
But to get to the elevator you have to walk through a long rock tunnel and since I’m incredibly claustrophobic I tried and couldn’t make myself to get to the elevator. We’ll be back to experience the top of the rock one day when we can take the stairs.
A huge thank you to the amazing partners that made this trip possible:
We’ll be back – probably very soon to view this gorgeous area when it’s alive with the colors of fall!